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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Logical Fallacy of the Week, Week 62: Appeal to Fear

Appeal to fear  (also called argumentum ad metum or argumentum in terrorem) is a fallacy in which a person attempts to create support for an idea by using deception and propaganda in attempts to increase fear and prejudice toward a competitor. The appeal to fear is common in marketing and politics.

This fallacy has the following argument form:

Either P or Q is true.
Q is frightening.
Therefore, P is true.

The argument is invalid. The appeal to emotion is used in exploiting existing fears to create support for the speaker's proposal, namely P. Also, often the false dilemma fallacy is involved, suggesting Q is the proposed idea's sole alternative.
  • "If you continue to drink, you will die early as your father did."
  • "If you cannot graduate from high school, you will live in poverty for the rest of your life."
  • "Voting for him is the same as voting for the terrorists."
  • "If you tell a lie, then no one will ever believe what you say again."
  • "If you hold your breath for a long time, you will die"

Editor's Note: As in all logical fallacies it is the way in which the conclusion is drawn that is illogical.  The conclusion may be accurate or seemingly accurate, but the manner in which a person draws it may not be entirely logical leaving gaps in their reasoning that opens the conclusion to challenge.   

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